UP is undergoing a crisis. The weak Yogi government is victimising not just Muslims.
As part of a concerted RSS plan, Yadavs, who are seen to be in opposition to the present regime, are being made to fight Brahmins, who are emerging as the opposition voice.
In fact, the larger RSS plan is to keep Yadavs, Brahmins, Dalits and Muslims – four social forces that can mount a political challenge to BJP – divided.
As shall be seen later in this article, the Unchahaar tragedy in which Brahmins were pitted against Yadavs, is part of the BJP conspiracy.
Brahmins’ anger against BJP
Because the hidden story of UP is the marginalisation and killing of Brahmins especially during phases when BJP has come to power.
The latest instance being the killing of 5 Brahmins–Rohit Shukla, Narendra Shukla, Ankush Mishra, Anoop Mishra–all residents of Sangramgarh area of Pratapgarh district–and Brajesh Shukla–a resident of Chhitiya village in Unchahar area of Rae Bareli.
The killings took place in Apta village of Unchahar, Rae Bareli on 26 June.
Now, the question may arise as to why Brahmins continue vote for BJP then? The answer is that the RSS propagates Brahmins to vote solely for BJP. It’s not true, it’s just a perception.
Brahmins have not voted more or less for BJP than other castes, which means that Brahmins have not shown a special inclination for BJP in any sense.
UP has 75 districts. Brahmins are Presidents of only 7-8 district bodies. Brahmins constitute 14% of UP’s electorate, Rajputs or Thakurs 6% and Banias less than 3%. But there are 11 Rajput and 14 Bania-Marwari BJP district Presidents.
Now look at the voting pattern. Brahmins voted for BJP heavily in 1991 and 1996. But these were elections in which the BJP enjoyed support from beyond its traditional support base.
In fact, the BJP’s UP government between 1997-2002 saw three Chief Ministers: Kalyan Singh (OBC), Ram Prakash Gupta (Bania), and Rajnath Singh (Rajput).
None were Brahmins and plum ministerial berths too went to OBCs, Banias and Rajputs.
Earlier also, particularly in 1991 when BJP formed its first government in UP, Brahmins were not adequately represented. Recall the UP assembly elections of 1993, right after the Babari Masjid demolition. The SP-BSP combine got 172 seats while the BJP got 173. In 1991, BJP had won 221 seats.
The difference between 1991 and 1993 was the moving away of a significant percentage of Brahmins from BJP. Brahmins might have wanted a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. But they were not happy with Masjid demolition.
In fact, today’s generation would be surprised to learn that in the pre-Mandir, pre-Mandal era, Brahmins led the Dalit-Muslim-Brahmin combine that won Congress elections after elections from 1952 to 1985.
The Jan Sangh, which metamorphosed into BJP in the 1980s, often got lesser seats than even Communist Party of India in UP!
Till the early 90s, both the ruling party (Congress), and the opposition, remained broadly within the secular, left-of-center political framework.
Led first by Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, and then by Chaudhary Charan Singh, UP opposition politics revolved around the AJGAR (Ahir-Jat-Gujar-Rajput) axis.
So, in UP, till the early 90s, there was the Brahmin-Dalit-Muslim combination led by Congress on one side. And AJGAR on the other.
But these were not simple caste equations.
Caste alliances derived strength from a churning of classes. Brahmins represented urban middle class and rural intellectuals. Dalits were agricultural labourers and poor peasants. Muslims reflected rural artisans and small entrepreneurs.
So the Brahmin-Muslim-Dalit combination represented a class alliance of middle forces, intellectuals, agricultural workers and small, entrepreneurial businesses.
At the other end of the spectrum, AJGAR represented an alliance largely, between rich and middle peasants (Jats, Gujars and Yadavs) and the old feudal caste (Rajputs).
It is not as if there were no Brahmins as peasants or that all Rajputs were feudals. There was a lot of interpenetration. But during phases of political mobilisation, broad caste alliances, with a hidden, class-economic base, made their presence felt…
Mandir and Mandal
Mandir and Mandal disrupted all equations and Muslims and Ahirs (Yadavs) bandied together in a new MY combination while Dalits went to the BSP.
Emerging as a player for the first time, BJP formed the upper caste plus non-Yadav OBC combination. Congress, the ‘natural’ party of Brahmins, was marginalised.
But Brahmins remained an unstable factor. BJP never trusted Brahmins. Had the Brahmins rallied behind BJP as they rooted once for Congress, BJP would have won majority in UP assembly almost on a regular basis.
In 2002, 2007 and 2012, Brahmins did not vote for BJP. The latter got reduced to less and less seats, reaching its nadir in 2012 when it could barely manage 45 seats in 403-seat assembly.
2017 Assembly elections
In 2016, Congress introduced Sheila Dixit as its CM candidate for 2017 polls. Brahmins expressed a desire to return to its base party. Seeing Brahmins leaning towards Congress, Muslims too were inclined to shift. Dalits would have followed and Congress would have revived miraculously in 2017.
But miracles are rare in politics. Congress chose to form an alliance with the SP. In reaction, Brahmins went to BJP. The Muslim vote got split. Dalits were left confused. OBCs gravitated towards BJP. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Since the installation of Yogi led BJP government, more than 30 Brahmins have been killed in political vendetta by other castes excluding Muslims.
Brahmins are natural politicians. And, given favourable conditions, they start their political assertion. However, entrenched forces since the 1990s, mainly OBC and Rajput power groups, not the OBC and Rajput poor, unite against any such assertion.
Especially during the BJP rule when Brahmins are vulnerable due to their thinking that the saffron party will protect them and offer a level playing field.
This is what happened in Rae Bareli
Apta, the village near which 3 Brahmin youths were lynched and 2 burnt alive, falls under the Unchahaar assembly constituency.
Despite a wave, BJP’s candidate Utkrishta Maurya, son of Swami Prasad Maurya, the non-Yadav OBC leader from BSP who joined BJP, lost to Manoj Pandey of SP.
Now, Rae Bareli has seen several power tussles especially between Rajputs and Brahmins. In a classic conflict, Akhilesh Singh, a Rae Bareli strongman, allegedly killed Rakesh Pandey, Manoj Pandey’s elder brother.
So, barring Muslims and Dalits, rise of Brahmin figures riles other castes like OBC power groups and Rajputs. The Yadav group that killed 5 Brahmins on 26 June, were those who supported BJP’s Utkarsh Maurya. Brahmins had supported Manoj Pandey.
In a sense, the animosity was simmering. What gave fuel to fire was the desire of Brajesh Shukla, one of the 5 Brahmins, whose ‘Sasural’ falls in Apti village, to contest the upcoming village Panchayat elections.
A meeting reportedly took place between Akhilesh Singh, whose daughter won from a Congress ticket in 2017. Singh, it was alleged, was not happy with the Unchahar victory of the brother of the man he is accused of murdering.
Pro-BJP Yadavs Vs Ani-BJP Yadavs
The Yadavs in Rae Bareli were not with the SP but were loyal to the BJP. This is extremely significant. The Brahmin MLA from Unchahar is from the SP, while the accused Yadavs support the BJP! Meanwhile, the SP Yadavs are with Manoj Pandey!
It was allegedly decided in this meeting to eliminate the Brahmins.
Local Police officers of the area are mostly Thakurs, appointed during the Yogi-Thakur era.
On 26 June, Brahmin boys fell into the trap set for them.
9 individuals, Rajendra Yadav, Ram Abhilakh, Dasrath, Raja Yadav, Krishna Yadav, Pradeep Yadav, Shiv Kumar, Ram Bahal Yadav and Bhadau, involved in the incident, have been arrested so far. Raja, Krishna and Pradeep are sons of village pradhan, Ram Shri Yadav. Raja Yadav, the main accused, was arrested 7 days after the murders under intense pressure…
Raja Yadav was allegedly in touch with the block Pramukh and other bigwigs of the area. All of them had worked for Utkrishtha Maurya, Swami Prasad Maurya’s son, in 2017.
There are allegations that Maurya openly sided with the killers as he called those those killed were ‘goons.’ Thakur BJP leaders too came out against those who were killed! But Brajesh Pathak, a Brahmin leader who switched sides from BSP to BJP on the eve of 2017 assembly elections, and is a minister in Yogi cabinet, spoke in favour of his kinsmen. CM Yogi had to order swift action.
But Brahmins are demanding at least Rs. 50 lakhs per family, a CBI enquiry and employment and other benefits for each victim of the 26 June killings.
UP’s gangster politics under Yogi
The atmosphere is tense also because of the anti-Brahmin stance of CM Yogi. He has done nothing in cases, where Brahmins have been victims. He is allegedly discriminating against Brahmins in transfer/postings.
Yogi offered sops to Brahmins by appointing them as law officers. But Brahmins remain cold to the overtures of the CM.
Yogi was part of the Brahmin Vs Thakur turf wars of the 90s.
In UP’s political culture, caste leaders have to carry all castes once they come to power. Mulayam and Mayawati are known caste leaders. But even they had to give up an open show of caste rivalry after becoming Cchief ministers.
Yogi is a different politician. One of the first decisions he made after becoming the state chief minister was to order revenge raids on Hari Shankar Tiwari, the ageing Brahmin gangster-politician from Gorakhpur.
Tiwari was a rival of Virendra Shahi, the Thakur gangster and Yogi’s mentor. During the late 1990s, Shahi was gunned down by Sri Prakash Shukla, the Brahmin daredevil, in broad daylight in Lucknow.
By conducting a raid on Hari Shankar Tiwari, Yogi appeared to have opened the old wounds.
It’s not just a coincidence that a bomb was found under Manoj Pandey’s Vidhan Sabha seat recently! Many in the political circles of Uttar Pradesh feel that it was done to terrorise Pandey. Later, the bomb turned out to be non-explosive!
Brahmins are now building a narrative of how their community members have been killed systematically: they cite the unsolved mystery of the assassination of Ghanshyam Shukla, the BJP leader of Gonda, in 2004. Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, now the sitting BJP MP from Kaisarganj Lok Sabha seat, is widely suspected as Ghanshyam Shukla’s assassin. Even a CBI enquiry yielded nothing concerning Shukla’s killing. I have already mentioned Rakesh Pandey’s killing allegedly, by Akhilesh Singh.
Several local level and emerging Brahmin leaders too have been killed in the past.
It is quite an anamoly that there is an anti-Brahmin narrative in UP–but the reality is that Brahmins are as victimised as Dalits and Muslims.
The reason is that Brahmins are the only group that has remained out of power in UP for more than 25 years. And Brahmins are the only force that challenge the hegemony of Thakurs and the neo-rich gentry among OBCs.
Situation in UP is such that Brahmin assertion will lead to Muslim and Dalit assertion. Now that Yadavs are in opposition, they too may join. If this happens, this will forever alter the face of UP politics.
( Amaresh Misra is an award-winning author. Views expressed in this opinion piecee are the author’s own and Janta Ka Reporter doesn’t endorse them)